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Examining Social Protest Through Music


Dana Toth teaches tenth and twelfth grade ICT (Integrated Co-Teaching) English Language Arts and Music Appreciation. She also teaches on self-contained class. In this curriculum for her Music Appreciation course, Toth leads students through a brief history of social protest music. After learning some historical context through cinema and artifacts, students conduct a reading and analysis of two social protest songs, John Lennon's "Imagine," and Common and John Legend's "Glory." Students do research on a protest song of their choice and construct an original album cover for the song. 


Forest Hills High School is a large community school in Queens with a diverse population.


Learner 1

Learner 1 has challenges with expressive language. He also experiences social emotional issues and lacks coping skills. He sometimes withdraws from the class and would rather not participate and interact with anyone other than his best friend. However, he is very interested in music and fairness and equality in society. He is present every day and can produce work products. He is shy about presenting his work; however, he will stand in the front of the room and add in his comments when working with a partner. He is very respectful of his teacher and his peers, even when he says he is down.

Learner 2

Learner 2 is a verbal and expressive student who has challenges focusing and with time management. I pair Learner 1 and Learner 2 together because they are friends and both always present. They both are from similar backgrounds and like music. Both require directions repeated and explained as necessary and time management development. Learner 2 also likes music and is respectful of others. 

Learner 3

Learner 3 is a selective mute because she is traumatized by a speech impediment that she has had since she was a young child. Her peers have made fun of her lisp for all the years she’s been in school, therefore she has social anxiety and doesn’t want to present or participate in any class discussions. She is very creative and likes art.


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One of the challenges for teaching this unit included taking the time to create a comprehensive unit plan that engaged all learners and connects to students. This was my first time teaching a music class by myself. I used concepts I taught in English and Music Appreciation and vice versa. I didn’t do enough UDL and could engage more learners next year by starting from the beginning of the year.

I saw students surprised by their own progress in learning and liking the activities. In this unit, there was less teacher direction and more facilitation of the process, which was empowering for students.
In participating in TCICP's Instructional Design teams, I liked listening to other teachers' experiences and taking strategies from their instructional practices and appling them to my own. Station teaching and teach-back lessons informed me that I could be giving more independence to students and put them in charge of their learning.